Saturday, April 1, 2023

Drivers Lament NASCAR Officiating After Rain Causes Big One at Daytona

Denny Hamlin and Justin Haley, who were involved in an 18-car melee when rain hit turn 1 at Daytona, were not happy with race officiating. Photo Credit: @NASCARfan19_YT

Rain had played a role in every portion of the weekend at Daytona International Speedway, as it forced the cancelation of NASCAR Xfinity and Cup Series qualifying, delayed the NASCAR Xfinity Series race and postponed the start of the NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400 from Saturday night to Sunday morning.

Unfortunately, rain reared it’s ugly head with 21 laps remaining in the regular-season finale as a downpour in Turn 1 caused absolute chaos.

As the field reached Turn 1, cars lost traction in the wet. The leaders at the time, Denny Hamlin and Daniel Suarez, lost control immediately, while other cars behind them did as well.

At the end of the carnage, 18 cars had piled in uncontrollably.

Here is video of the crash that was caused by the rain:

Video: Sudden Downpour Causes ENORMOUS Accident at Daytona, Collects Entire Lead Pack, 18-Plus Cars

Hamlin, who saw a potential win end in a pile of cars in the Turn 1 wall, was less than pleased with the sanctioning body’s in-race officiating after exiting the infield care center.

When asked how we can prevent these kind of incidents in the future, Hamlin said, “You know, all I can say is better officiating. That’s all we can do, you know? Like  losing New Hampshire, we’ll learn from this, I’m sure.”

From Hamlin’s perspective, it seemed obvious that a caution should have been called, as Hamlin says there was a lot of rain dropping in the trioval.

“Obviously, they should have called us down,” Hamlin explained. “It was raining down the front, but you know, that’s what we’ve got.”

Adding insult to injury for Hamlin was the fact that this was the hardest crash that he has had in the new Next Gen car. While he attempted to shake off the pain of the hit, he says that he can now echo what other drivers have been saying about how hard hits in the new car are.

“No, just my whole body. Literally my jaw hurts,” Hamlin stated. “I feel like my is one of those boxers that gets their entire face demolished. But that was certainly the first real big one I’ve had in this car. Everything they’ve been telling us — all the other drivers — it’s legit.”

Justin Haley, who was running near the front of the field, with a chance to score a win and etch his name into the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff field was equally as frustrated with NASCAR’s officiating team.

“Yeah, it was raining for a good lap before we got down into Turn 1,” Haley said. “My spotter said coming out of [Turn] 2, the previous lap that it was raining and we just lost traction. So, pretty unacceptable.”

CNBC’s Parker Kligerman asked Haley how different the rain in Turn 1 was compared to the sprinkles the drivers drove with in the early portions of the race, and Haley said it was a glaring difference.

“Well, we all didn’t wreck earlier,” Haley quipped. “It was pouring. It was pouring as we went into turn 1. You see it right there. You would think we’d be a little more on top of that.”

But it wasn’t just Hamlin and Haley, just about every driver that spoke, following the crash, echoed the same sentiments.

Suarez, who was battling Hamlin for the lead at the time of the crash, says that NASCAR should be able to make better decisions to not put their drivers in that situation.

“We knew the rain was coming,” Suarez said. “It was raining next door. It was just a matter of time. Why would we wait for that.. I don’t know. Maybe I’m a little biased because I was in the front, but there’s nothing you can do. Sometimes you are running 200 mph and you’re able to turn left. And then you see a few drops hard and you’re just spinning.

“I feel like they have a lot of technology to know that the rain is very, very close. I don’t think it’s hard to not put us in that position.”

Chris Buescher, who has had a lot of strength in recent weeks, and was having another strong run on Sunday, thinks it’s a ridiculous situation.

“We saw rain. Our Fifth Third Bank Mustang was really fast. Everybody did their jobs and I felt like I was doing mine fairly well up there and had a run,” Buescher explained. “We were definitely in a good spot and it was raining when we got to turn one and we all wiped out. We wiped out all the lead cars, so whoever wins this race wasn’t even in contention. It’s just ridiculous from my point of view.”

While Hamlin, Haley, Suarez, Buescher and certainly many other top runners that were wiped out by this incident were left seething, Scott Miller, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition, doesn’t feel the sanctioning body could have done anything different to prevent the accident.

“Well, I really don’t,” Miller said on the CNBC broadcast. “We were on top of the weather monitoring it with all of our turn spotters. In touch with the spotters up top. The pace car. And we had all of the information that we thought — we had been dodging a little bit of weather, obviously, for a little while. Nothing had hit and all of a sudden there was that shower.”

While NASCAR feels there was nothing they could do better in this situation, and they very well could ultimately be right, the timing of a rain-induced big one couldn’t come at a worse time as it ended the hopes of many drivers securing a last minute win and making the Playoffs.

Adding to the context of the situation is that the sanctioning body has had a few bad calls from the booth in rain situations over the last couple of years.

Last May, rain was falling very intensely at Circuit of the Americas, and while NASCAR race cars can run road courses in the rain, the amount of rain and standing water caused a mist which drivers could not see through.

As a result, Martin Truex Jr. and Cole Custer were involved in an absolutely scary crash.

Moving forward to last July, rain erupted at the initial start of the NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which led to polesitter Kyle Busch crashing and seeing his race end.


Toby Christie
Toby Christie
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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